By Patrick DeHeer, DPM, FACFAS and Erika Jagger, BS.
Relationships between physicians and medical sales representatives are uniquely complicated and exist in many forms. When chatting with colleagues it is equally common to hear about a physician’s family vacation including a sales representative as it is to hear a litany of reasons for another physician's policy against meeting with reps at all.
The ethics surrounding physician-medical sales representative interaction are fraught with land mines. These ethics are highly scrutinized and they should be, but we can table those sticky matters for another blog.
Let's talk tactics! Here are some suggestions via an open letter to every medical sales representative in America.
Dear Every Medical Sales Representative in America,
1. Please don't sell to me. I am not buying a car. Please forget all of the tricks that you learned in sales training so we can focus on the essential details related to your product(s).
2. Please respect my time and that of my staff. It is highly likely that I have patients waiting for me, charts to complete and students and residents to teach. My staff has the task of making all of that run smoothly. Our time is important, and we believe that your time is as well. Please educate us in as few words as possible as to how you and your product could make our patients' lives better.
3. Digitize your marketing materials. It is 2020. No one wants to sort through a mountain of brochures. Please provide a link, website or a file that I can quickly access electronically. If those things do not exist, please tell the leaders of your company that it is hurting your sales.
4. Know your product. Please know what your product does, if and where it is approved, and how much it costs before we meet. Know the size(s) available. Know the pros and cons. Know the material. Know. Your. Product.
5. Be honest. Please do not tell me that your product does magical things that it does not do. Please do not tell me that your product is approved in X facility when it is not. Please do not tell me that your product costs less than it does.
6. Treat me as though you are willing to earn my business versus being entitled to it. We know that the majority of gadgets on the market are "I have one too" gadgets. I will choose a particularly reliable and trustworthy rep with an "I have one too" gadget over one with an extra fancy "one and only" gadget every single time. An extra fancy "one and only" gadget won't make my patient's life better if it is sold by a rep who is late to surgery and does not have the right size.
This leads me to the big suggestion.
7. Become an asset. Follow the aforementioned principles, make me a hero to a patient and we will know one another for the long haul.
Dr. DeHeer is the Residency Director of the St. Vincent Hospital Podiatry Program in Indianapolis. He is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons, a Fellow of the American Society of Podiatric Surgeons, and a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Pediatrics. Dr DeHeer is also a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow, and a Diplomate of the American Board of Podiatric Surgery.